Ron Paul

Ron Paul's Followers and the GOP: Where To From Here, and How?

The Republican Party doesn't want Ron Paul activists. But do they still need the GOP?


Maine delegation walks out of Republican National Convention.

It has been a tempestuous month for supporters of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) in the Republican Party. In the lead-up to the Republican National Convention now unfolding in Tampa, deal after deal was made involving challenges to (or from) delegations sent from states dominated by Pau supporters. The Paul people lost most of those fights.

Many Paul delegates were raring for a floor fight as the convention was set to begin. They wanted some victories in their efforts to get represented at the convention. That's why they wanted the original Paul-dominated Maine delegation to be seated, not the last-minute substitute chosen by the Republican National Committee.

The Paul forces lost that one as well. According to Maine delegate Mike Wallace, a hoped-for floor vote to reinstate the delegation wasn't even allowed to be held, leading the original delegation to leave the floor in protest.

Several times on the convention floor Tuesday, Paulites united with Tea Party members and old-school conservatives to fight rule changes that were seen as inimical to the interest of all grassroots activists, no matter their particular stances. One controversial change out of the Rules Committee would bind state delegations to the results of straw polls or primaries, leaving no room for maneuvering at state conventions.

Independent of ideology, this would mean an end to any future upstart doing what Paul did this year: using the savvy and enthusiasm of his supporters to rack up more delegates at state conventions than they won in straw polls or primaries.

FreedomWorks, which works closely with Tea Party groups, was spreading the word about truculent Rules Committee members bounced in favor of Romney loyalists during the fight, and others reported points of order being ignored as challenges to the controversial rule changes were heard on the floor.

David Nalle, national chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC), says the reported exile of Ron Paul delegations to the cheap seats meant they couldn't make themselves heard across the crowded hall. The Virginia delegation insists it was deliberately delayed by a late and dilatory GOP bus so they couldn't vote on the rule committee changes.

Some media reported on a "compromise" on one hated aspect of the new delegate rule, which allowed candidates to handpick their own delegations. Many feared shis change would mean only insiders and donors and friends of the winner would ever get to the RNC. The Rule 16 that ended up passing still apparently gives candidates that power. It says, "No delegate or alternate delegate who is bound or allocated to a particular presidential candidate may be certified under Rule No. 20 if the presidential candidate to whom the delegate or alternate delegate is bound or allocated has, in consultation with the state party, disavowed the delegate or alternate delegate."

Another rule hated by Paulites and Tea Partyers alike — one that allows the RNC to change its rules by a two-thirds vote between conventions — also passed.

Although even non-Paul-controlled delegations such as Texas' were against the rule changes, they still lost. This show of power on the part of the RNC over the grassroots is leading some delegates to consider rebellion an appropriate option.

Morton Blackwell, the head of the conservative training group the Leadership institute, was Barry Goldwater's youngest delegate in 1964. He's been present at every rules committee meeting for the past 40 years, and he thinks the new rules are "the most awful I've ever seen come before any National Convention….a power grab by Washington, D.C. party insiders and consultants designed to silence the voice of state party activists and Republican grassroots."

While Paul voters feel uniquely screwed by the RNC this week, it is in fact a general assault on grassroots rebels of any sort. For that reason, the RLC's Nalle sees a silver lining in the cloud of gloom the establishment has placed over the grassroots: "It became unifying for Paulites and the Tea Party people," he says. "Even with the ideological disagreements, the grassroots groups all agree that local control is better. What happened Tuesday with the rules brought that to the forefront, which I think will be healthy for the future. Having had the Party leadership take its gloves off shows how big a problem there is in the GOP now."

Dennis Marburger, a Michigan delegate bound to Romney but favoring Paul, told me he's found that not only Ron Paul fans but all sorts of Republicans who respect fair play are angry at the Rules shenanigans. Romney is alienating more than just those already primed to dislike him.

Although not invited to speak — he wouldn't give Romney forces a chance to vet his remarks — Ron Paul briefly walked around the convention floor Tuesday, to shouts of "President Paul" (matched by countershouts of "Romney!"). In the end, Paul got around 190 delegates votes (if we presume Pennsylvania's five for "Paul Ryan" were actually meant for Ron Paul). Since Paul was not officially in nomination — a last-minute attempt to get Paul's name officially in nomination also failed — the secretary at the podium did not announce Paul delegate numbers even when state delegation leaders did, which didn't necessarily always happen. One person claiming to be a Nebraska delegate in a Daily Paul comment thread says his state's chair didn't announce two Paul votes from that state.

So that's the end of Ron Paul the candidate in the Republican Party.

But what of Ron Paul's supporters' role in the party?

Some think they are done with the GOP. Many in the Paul grassroots are still disgusted with the official campaign's refusal to fight to the death to ensure a Paul nomination. They're especially angry with Paul's political director Jesse Benton, who has made his disdain for some of them pretty clear as well. Benton advised Peter Schiff to not show up to the grassroots "P.A.U.L. festival" in Tampa pre-RNC and worked to completely separate the candidate from that event. Many Paul-friendly politicos are probably just as happy to see the likes of Adam Kokesh of Veterans Against the War separate from the Paul movement, and have little respect for agorist living and economic education or street activism as elements of political change anyway.

I met many of these more scruffy, bohemian Paul types, but even some of them are members of local GOP committees or planning on running for office. Those who aren't still intend to signwave, run impromptu boarding houses for other traveling Paul activists, and be beacons for libertarian messages in personal life and social networks so everyone surrounding them will understand there are choices in politics beyond Obama and Romney. While they might not be effective political operators of the sort Jesse Benton might respect, they are softening up the electorate, in often unmeasurable ways, to be receptive to liberty candidates.

Nalle of the RNC thinks that people who are likely to find this week so discouraging they give up on the GOP would likely have left the active liberty movement after this convention anyway. Their passions would be cooled, he says, simply because Paul didn't win and it wouldn't really matter how polite or solicitous the Romney forces tried to be. Others seem turned off because they think the establishment's refusal to allow Paul to officially be in nomination or have his votes counted was an act of pure malice, done merely for the sour pleasure of telling Paul activists to stuff it and making sure no word critical of empire was spoken from the sacred halls of the RNC.

But there's still another place for Paul voters to go: to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who is actively courting their vote. Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative now working for Johnson because of Stone's disgust with the party's growing social conservatism and fiscal profligacy, calls out Paul as lacking in principles for not endorsing Johnson. 

Paul does continue to refuse to endorse Romney. That epitomizes the game he's playing: keeping his (and by extension, his brand's) liberty bonafides while not needlessly antagonizing the Republican Party (unlike in 2008, when Paul first gave an all-third-party endorsement and then went for the right-populist Constitution Party's Chuck Baldwin). Paul did say back in 2010, when he was not running for the Republican nod and Gary Johnson was, that he couldn't imagine endorsing anyone else. But that was in the context of the Republican Party, and things have changed since then.

Despite the smackdowns this week in Tampa, Paul and his people have had extraordinary and surprising success in punching their weight, and above it, in the Republican Party. Wallace, the Maine delegate who survived the purge of the Paulites, told me Tuesday night, "The Republican Party is where I've chosen to make my voice and I'm still going to exercise it. I just know that there's a real lack of honesty in the Republican Party so I will be paying close attention to who is honest in the Party."

For many in the Paul grassroots, that doesn't necessarily even mean Paul's son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is still mistrusted by some of his father's fans. But liberty-minded politicos seem more inclined to keep fighting in the Republican Party than go home.

Nalle reports his Republican Liberty Caucus is booming, and Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, and Alaska's state GOPs are largely under Paulite control. As Tom Heitman, a delegate from North Carolina, told me at the afterparty following Paul's Sunday rally, he's not at all surprised by how the establishment treated Ron Paul people. But he's still thrilled at how strong the Paul delegations' showing is compared to 2008.

By Heitman's count, liberty-minded delegates have quadrupled since the last presidential election. If that same sort of growth continues over the next four years, they'll be a majority. Heitman is still dedicated to local activism — especially stopping local spending binges via ballot initiatives — no matter how annoying the national GOP behaves.

His advice to any discouraged liberty activist? The beauty of a representative republic, Heitman says, is the immense power an ideological minority can have simply by showing up: particularly to local, district, and state Party meetings. He's going to keep showing up to the places where the GOP makes its decisions, and he thinks the liberty minded should as well. 

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  1. Whatever Paul supporters decide to do after 2012, it’s obvious their best bet this election is to vote for Johnson. That’s the only way to get a clear tally of their strength.

    1. That’ll also show the Republicans not to take us for granted. Danger is Obama could get re-elected because the Republicans lost a strong part of their base to Johnson because of their actions at this convention.

      1. Danger? Romney can’t beat Obama, anyway. The Republican leadership will never get serious about freedom unless they get a strong message from their base–vote Johnson, and tell the RNC what’s what!

  2. Nalle reports his Republican Liberty Caucus is booming, and Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, and Alaska’s state GOPs are largely under Paulite control.

    This is pretty much the only real way to affect change. “Liberty minded” people will need to take over the GOP from the bottom up. Just know that that the “establishment GOPers” will fight tooth and nail to hold on to the party, but with patience it can be done. That’s how the “modern left/ progressives/ whatever they call themselves now” types took over the democrat party.

    1. This is pretty much the only real way to affect change. “Liberty minded” people will need to take over the GOP from the bottom up. Just know that that the “establishment GOPers” will fight tooth and nail to hold on to the party, but with patience it can be done.

      You can try to take over the party from the bottom up, but you have to withhold your votes from the GOP at the same time. Vote the primaries, go to the conventions, do the legwork necessary to take over from the botton. BUT, on election day vote 3rd party. This is what they care about: votes. It is the only thing they care about.

    2. Fine, go at it. I no longer have the energy to butt heads with buttheads.
      The Republican Liberty Caucus types are going to have to find deep pockets in order to defeat the establishment GOP types who can always count on the contributions of the pigs at the trough.
      All the way down to the local level, there are lawyers, developers, businessmen who are giving beaucoup bucks to the establishment because they are winning government contracts and getting favors. What “favors” are libertarians giving out??

    3. The key difference is that people who seek power tend to be much more receptive to a message of “Let’s control this” than “Let’s stop controlling this”.

      The modern left took over the Dems by preaching control, just as the socons took over the Repubs by preaching control.

      Power seekers seek power to control things.

      Those who seek to dismantle the power structure will always be outnumbered, because (as a general rule) people seek power for the purpose of wielding it, not to destroy it.

      Didn’t you learn anything from the Lord of the Rings?

  3. someone tell paul he lost…
    let the rest of us get on with it

    join us or get the hell out of the way

    1. The republicans lost this presidential election the second they picked that idiot Romney (if not before then.) What you need to be doing is trying to build a rational republican party to replace the crazed idiocy that underlies the current crop of clown-shoe-wearing corporate bootlickers. You need congresspeople who will work on the issues facing the country instead of voting over and over on an issue they can’t get passed. And you need to address the issues of people getting older and needing care; of people with preexisting conditions; of the useless, wasteful wars. Only then will you have another chance. The country has turned its face away from the military industrial complex. That money needs to be spent at home, and stay in our economy.

    2. join us or get the hell out of the way

      Who is us? I hope you don’t mean the Republicans, because without the libertarians, YOU are looking at another 4 years of this nonsense.

      Get out of the way? You boys in red need to be lovingly performing fellatio on me!

      1. Oh so gently, no teeth.

  4. You hear buffoons like Beck or other bonehead repubs always say “oh, I like Ron Paul, he should be the secretary of treasury and I agree with him that we need to deal with the debt, but his foreign policy views are crazy” when they are so clueless they don’t even think of the big picture, that his foreign policy ideas tie into the budget and debt. They are so clueless they still cling to the idea that they can spend even more on the military and want to continue our worldwide misadventures.

    I saw 2016, and even in that movie, I was saddened when they rolled out the usual neocons to tell us the problem with Obama is that he wants to cut back on the military, that the Iran boogieman is going to get us. I suppose total collapse is the only thing that might convince them.

    1. What’s wrong with you? Iran has a long range missile that can hit a target 120 miles away! Only 5800 more miles and they’ll blow Miami away with their nuclear capability they don’t have.

  5. Let the RNC know that they blew it. Vote Johnson!

  6. Ron Paul supporters will never drive any meaningful change while they are saddled with the social issues that come with the Republican party.

  7. I am fully convinced that the only reason why Ron Paul went to the Republican Party after being in the Libertarian Party is to show people how bad the current two parties are and then once he recruits enough people Dr. Paul will eventually come back to the Libertarian Party and run for President. That will get the LP on the fast track to being a true force to be reckoned with.

  8. using the savvy and enthusiasm of his supporters to rack up more delegates at state conventions than they won in straw polls or primaries.

  9. What happened Tuesday with the rules brought that to the forefront, which I think will be healthy for the future. Having had the Party leadership take its gloves off shows how big a problem there is in the GOP now.”

  10. While you Ron Paul supporters and the GOP argue the USA burns from the policies of an extremely liberal democratic party. Gary Johnson can’t win this presidential race, I’m not sure Romney can. But I know Paul can’t.

    Plug your noses and get behind Romney, he can’t be as bad as Obama will be in a second term. Heck if we can put up with Obama for four years we should be able to stand Romney for four.

    In that 4 years lets see some real growth toward a third party. Everyone talks about it but we really don’t do anything about it. We have all these small parties – Green, Libertarian, etc. but they NEVER even get one electoral vote in a presidential race.

    Lets not ley Obama get re-elected because we all argue about something we can’t change fast enough before November.

    You might as well vote for Obama if you vote for Johnson.

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